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Chapter Three

Henry Hill – The Brighton Years

Henry and Charlotte Hill moved to 53 Marine Parade in 1865 and made it their home in Brighton until the death of Charlotte in 1891. As the name suggests, Marine Parade runs along the sea front at Brighton, from the Palace Pier towards the Marina.[79] Although Hill remained active in his business until his death in 1882, this retirement from London gave him the opportunity to put some of his business skills to use in other endeavours. For instance, for some time, Hill was a Town Councillor, representing Park Ward on Brighton Borough Council. After resigning this post, Hill joined the Fine Art Sub Committee for the Brighton Art Gallery and established a programme of exhibitions there. He also helped to establish the Brighton School of Science and Art, supported the athletic and boating clubs and was the Quartermaster of the 1st Sussex Rifle Volunteers (where he got his title of Captain). He made large donations to the prize fund of the Corps.[80]

A contemporaneous account describes his house, at 53 Marine Parade as literally crammed with works of art. [81] This included a gallery of six rooms behind the house, lit from the ceiling (like the Dulwich Picture Gallery suggesting that it was specifically designed as a House Gallery), filled with art of the Modern and French schools. Another contemporaneous account, from Alice Meynell, describes the galleries in a similar way:

The collection is gathered into a cluster of moderately sized, well-lighted rooms, devoted entirely to the purposes of a gallery, except for the presence of a pianoforte à queue which suggests a very delightful combination of pleasures – Chopin with Corot, and other happy unions of suggestive art. But the whole house is flowing over with pictures, the drawing room being hung with them, and even the obscurer walls of an anteroom being covered.[82]

The property is now flats. The ground floor flat at this address has one odd rectangular room with a dome roof and window at the north end, one of six and the only remaining picture gallery. [83] The domed ceiling light is double glazed with acid etched glass in the lower glazing, presumably to diffuse the light.[84]

Another account of the house by A.M. Reynolds records that Hill’s:

[…] gallery, or rather galleries, for they were incessantly being added to, were rapidly acquiring a reputation as the home of some of the best art of the day. He was a great connoisseur of the then new French School, and must have been one of the very earliest buyers of Degas in this country. Both Bouguereau and Meissonnier were to be found in his collection, and he bought considerably of the modern English School, including Pettie, Orchardson, and several of Phil Morris’s best early works. He believed my father to be the “coming man,” and bought no less than fifteen of his pictures.[85]

In the manner of the country house owner, Hill allowed ‘any well-accredited stranger’ into his home to view his picture gallery.[86] There are no known records of the specific layout of these galleries, although Hill’s obituary in The Argus describes them as ‘literally crammed’.[87] The Old Friend describes the formation of the galleries as Hill’s ‘chief delight’. Hill lent his pictures extensively to the Brighton Art Gallery, from when it first opened, and before he became a member of its committee. Almost as an extension to his private gallery space, Hill took the opportunity to make the pictures in his collection more widely available, whilst making space in his own picture gallery for a growing collection. In 1876, he loaned Degas and Antoine Vollon, in 1881, it was the German painter Carl Wünnenberg (1850 – 1929).[88]

Perhaps because this is where Hill had his gallery of pictures, he is more known in connection with the 53 Marine Parade address than his London addresses. The ‘Old Friend’ who was Hill’s anonymous obituarist, elaborates on Hill’s financial position that ‘in early days thrift helped to bring success’ and that Hill ‘continued on the same frugal scale until the capital accumulated was within a measurable distance of being enough for paying cash for purchases, instead of taking the usual trade credits.’[89] Pickvance expresses surprise that Hill only began collecting in his sixties, but according to his anonymous friend, Hill, as a self-made man, was cautious with money until his wealth was assured. This provides one reason why Hill’s collection only started to grow so rapidly later in his life, when he was able to focus on more philanthropic and artistic enterprises.

Hill and his Golden Age of collecting

The 1870s was the golden decade for Hill and his collection. He was settled in Brighton and his network of contacts was growing. He had positioned himself, as Chairman of the Fine Arts Sub Committee, where he could view other collections, develop personal connections with new artists and influence what was in the Brighton Exhibitions; he could promote his network. On the Board of the Brighton School of Science and Art, he was influential in persuading Royal Academicians and Associates whom he patronized to become involved in the school.  The dealers in London knew him, and he was engaged with current trends.[90]

In late December 1870, Durand-Ruel’s first exhibition of ‘The Society of French Artists’ was shown at 168 Bond Street. The Brighton Art Gallery opened in 1872, the same year in which Deschamps (the dealer Gambart’s nephew) became secretary to The Society of French Artists. Later in 1870’s, as Gambart retired from the world, Deschamps was showing work that the older dealers such as Gambart and Durand-Ruel could not understand. It was a changing of the guard in the art world, ‘a passing of an age’.[91] The Franco-Prussian war also coincided with the opening of this public gallery. Brighton was, according to Henry Cole (director of the South Kensington Museum), a town with ‘health, recreation, education and pleasure’ as its industry.[92] As such, it could compete with the industrial cities of Liverpool and Glasgow, but on its own terms with a focus on the arts and leisure.

Most of what is known about Henry Hill has been gleaned from obituary reports and, in this dissertation, committee minutes. In a biography of her father Frank Holl, A. M. Reynolds provides a personal account that paints a picture, like the portrait by her father, of Henry Hill himself. [93] She describes how in April 1874 the Holl family went to Brighton for a week or two:

[…] together with the Petties and the Orchardsons, the latter but lately married. It was during this visit that the friendship with Captain Henry Hill, the brother of Edward Hill, my father’s brother-in-law, rapidly developed, laying the foundations for an attachment almost amounting to kindredship. Many years older than my father, Captain Hill still possessed a vigorous, youthful spirit, clad in a bluff and hearty exterior. Generosity and goodness itself, this stout little person surmounted by a bullet-shaped head with a complexion suggestive of much enjoyment of old port and a vast appreciation of the good things of life generally, he was a well-known figure in sales rooms and at picture-dealers. […] He was extremely fond of my father, and during the visit to Brighton my parents seem to have practically lived at No. 53 Marine Parade. Lunching, dining, walking, and driving, most of the day was spent in the company of Captain Hill and his kindly wife – a comfortable, cheery soul with just as much appreciation of luxurious living as her bluff and breezy Captain.[94]

The description provides evidence of Hill’s network, as a ‘well-known figure’ to dealers and a friend to artists, who spent time in his personal social circle. It also shows that Hill had the opportunity to be personally acquainted with not only Frank Holl (1845 – 1888) but John Pettie (1839 – 1893) and William Orchardson (1832 – 1910) (lately married to Helen Moxon) through the family connection. Later in 1874, after this meeting, Hill launched the first Annual Sales exhibition for living artists. He has accrued a group of interested parties willing to support the venture, which includes a large number of the Holl circle.

Henry Hill and his British network of artists

As Reynolds points out, the friendship between Holl and Hill was an attachment ‘almost amounting to kindredship’.[95] The two men were connected by marriage, Hill’s brother Edward was married to Holl’s sister. From details that Reynolds provides about the sales of her father’s paintings, it seems that all of the Hill brothers were supporters of Holl and his work. Among other examples, she recalls that in 1869, Edward Hill bought ‘a very charming little picture of a child dragging home a large branch of holly’[96] and that in 1874 Charles Hill bought a small picture, A Child without her Doll is as a Wife who is Childless.[97] She lists numerous accounts where Hill either bought existing work or commissioned paintings from Holl. This proves that Hill was buying directly through artists, and that he was both commissioning pieces and buying new work. Reynolds recalls that one of the first pictures to be painted after Holl’s return to London in September after his time abroad, was a small picture entitled And once upon a time, ‘which, when completed, was sold to Captain Henry Hill of Brighton, who became, later on, a large buyer of my father’s works.’[98] This is the most well recorded relationship between Hill and an artist. It introduces a pattern of buying to Hill’s collection where he knows the artist personally and wishes to support him or her, by collecting their work more prolifically.

In 1871, J Linton asked Frank Holl to submit a woodcut drawing for a new illustrated periodical, the Graphic. Holl agreed and submitted A Seat in a Railway Station – Third Class.[99] This became the first of many ‘Black and Whites’ that Holl produced for the Graphic including Deserted- A Foundling. He later painted pictures of these same subjects, and sold both to Henry Hill.[100] Reynolds describes her father’s ‘prowls about the East End’ with Mr Johnson looking for suitable subjects for the work.[101]

Whether it was because of, as Richard Thomson suggests,[102] family loyalty or whether it was because these subjects had an impact on Hill, it seems that Hill sensed a connection with these paintings. From this point, Hill expanded his collection of social realist artists and paintings. These social realist genre paintings are often dismissed as sentimentalist, mawkish Victorian painting (even in 1882 Meynell describes Holl’s genre paintings as trite and pathetic and acutely sentimental).[103] Treuherz suggests that ‘sentiment’ was understood by Victorians to mean a moving quality resulting from the artist’s sympathetic insight into what is described or depicted.[104] This is certainly how Reynolds chose to present her father: ‘These rambles in the very poorest quarters of London brought my father face to face with many terrible scenes of misery and poverty, and even crime. It was scarcely a morbid attraction for the seamy side […] but rather, I take it, a latent idea that, by depicting them forcibly and poignantly in his own work, he might bring home to the indifferent eyes and hearts of the public the wretched and iniquitous state of affairs which lies close to our own doors.’[105]

In Hard Times, Treuherz insists that many Victorian genre paintings of the 1870’s have to be seen in the context of Victorian philanthropy, and that this art evoked in the wealthy classes reactions similar to those of their charitable giving.[106] We know that Hill subscribed to at least the Tailors Benevolent Institution. It is likely that these paintings connected to him in an emotional way – they provide a fitting accompaniment to his philanthropic work. According to one obituary, Hill ‘took an active […] interest in local affairs, and was a ready supporter of social, […] and philanthropic institutions. As a member of the Town Council, he brought […] considered judgement to bear upon questions coming before that body from time to time, whether appertaining to the sanitary, welfare or general improvement of the town’.[107] The evidence suggests that Hill collected pictures with a social message, exhibited them in Brighton, and was engaged in a socialist agenda.

Hill had an extensive collection of work by Holl including a sketch of Newgate (the original was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878).[108] This was one of several replica works that Hill commissioned from Holl, including Going Home (the original was exhibited at the RA in 1877) and The Lord Gave, his travelling studentship picture.[109] Hill also bought new works such as A Fisherman’s Wife bought in 1877.

Frank Holl became more popular as a portrait painter, becoming known as ‘the English Velasquez’.[110] He is described by Maas as at one time an exponent of social realism in genre painting, but an ‘extremely serious and gifted portraitist whose aim was ‘to drag upon canvas the identity of the man himself’’.[111] He painted Hill’s portrait in 1880.

Holl was associated with and influenced by the Scottish painters John Pettie and W.Q. Orchardson. Leading Royal Academicians such as Sir Edwin Landseer moved in the circle of Sir Charles Eastlake. The Pre-Raphaelites were another group. In Frank Holl’s circle, in the first instance, were ‘the Petties, the Johnsons, the Lawsons, and Tom Graham’.[112] These families went on holidays together, including to Brighton where Holl and presumably his friends, met the congenial Henry Hill and his wife. [113] Later on, Holl develops a friendship with Ernest Waterlow (1850 – 1919), whom he met when Waterlow was on his honeymoon, in Criccieth, North Wales.[114]

This connects Waterlow with Hill. There are five of Waterlow’s pictures listed in the Christie’s sale record for Hill’s collection, including one entitled A Road: North Wales, possibly painted on that visit.  Waterlow is also listed as an honorary corresponding member of the Brighton Art Gallery Fine Arts Sub Committee in 1879. There is growing evidence that as Holl’s social circle grew, so too did Hill’s – as well as his collection. Reynolds notes that it was at Criccieth in this year that Holl found a new model, returning to paint the pictures Waiting (bought by Edward Hill) and L’Ennemi (bought by Captain Hill).

Further connections are in evidence. Reynolds remembers that Holl was a member of ‘the ‘Sketching Club,’ which was started originally by C. E. Johnson, Pettie, Orchardson, and Tom Graham, in their early days in Fitzroy Square […]’ and that as time passed, this group grew to include ‘Phil Morris, Abbey, Parsons, Colin Hunter, MacBeth, J.D. Watson, MacWhirter, John Burr and others […].’[115]

Of the Edinburgh artists who later moved to London and who were friends of Holl, Hill had examples of work by Orchardson, Pettie and McTaggart.[116] Hill also owned work by other members of the sketching group including Phil Morris, MacBeth, MacWhirter, and two paintings by John Burr.[117] These artists also appear as members of the Fine Art Sub Committee and the Brighton School of Science and Art Board, showing how Hill used his friendship and patronage to bring these artists into the work he was doing in Brighton.

Hill was a practical businessman. In undertaking his philanthropic enterprises, indeed, in ‘all he undertook, Captain Hill was essentially practical. This he showed in a marked manner, [he assisted the Brighton School of Science and Art] by loans of considerable sums of money. He was for some years a member of the First Sussex Rifle corps. His connection with the volunteer regiment was as Quarter-Master. He endeavoured to promote the efficiency of the Corps by giving prizes for shooting and drill, and in other ways tried to strengthen its high character. He won many friends in private circles, where he was known as a kind patron of struggling artists who had merit.’[118]

The Brighton School of Science and Art, an institution of Victorian Ideals

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Fig. 8:    John L. Gibbins ‘Design for the Brighton School of Art, Grand Parade’, from The Builder, 1877.

The Brighton School of Science and Art (BSS&A) now forms part of the University of Brighton but began in the 1830s, born from national debates about the importance of education in design and manufacture. These debates were the impetus for the development of the South Kensington School and Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), and the consequent schools of Science and Art modelled on this.  The BSS&A opened in part of the Brighton Royal Pavilion as the Brighton School of Art in 1859, with the aim of instructing working people to do their work better, and to command the best price for this work.[119] It was part of the National examinations and competitions overseen by the Council on Education at the Department of Science and Art in South Kensington.[120] Sir Henry Cole was involved with discussions about it in the 1860’s, and laid the foundation stone for the new building, which was opened by Princess Louise in 1877 with a “Guard of Honour from the 1st Sussex Artillery with the band of that regiment”.[121]

Hill provided the mortgage for the new building to house and expand the BSS&A and this is documented in the accounts records. In the report for year ending 31st July 1875, Hill is for the first time listed as a committee member on the board of the Brighton School of Art and Science. This reports the intention for a new educational building, and an appeal for funds started by the then Mayor, Mr. Alderman Ireland with a donation of £100. ‘This example was immediately followed by two gentlemen then present, Mr. Alderman Hallett and Captain Hill; and in response to an appeal, made by an influential Provisional Committee, formed for the purpose, a sum amounting to £2,700 was in a short time promised towards the Building Fund’[122]. A postscript confirms, ‘an excellent site, in the southern part of the Grand Parade, has been secured for the proposed Building for the School of Art and Science’.[123]

By 1877, HRH Princess Louise is the Royal Patron to the school and there is a list of Honorary Local Examiners, names all recognisable from Hill’s collection – P. R. Morris, Esq., A.R.A., Frank Holl, Esq., R. Beavis, Esq., and E. B. Stephens, Esq., A.R.A. This suggests that Hill is using his influence as patron and friend of these artists in establishing and expanding the BSS&A. [124]

The new school was built quickly, the fund started in September 1873, the site identified and purchased and the foundation stone laid by 1876, and the building opened January 1877. The Building Committee report demonstrates Hill’s practical help in achieving this:

Before the commencement of the building, your Committee found themselves in serious difficulty as to providing the means of paying the Contractor for the building, the subscriptions being quite inadequate for the purpose; but they were relieved from that difficulty by the generosity of Captain Hill, who offered to lend the sum of £5,000, at 4 ½ per cent, upon the security of the building; to advance the money in such sums, and at such times, as it should be required; and to undertake to receive repayment in small sums as the Committee might be able to pay them. This generous offer was accepted by the Committee, and Captain Hill has advanced not only the £5,000 at first contemplated, but also the further sum of £500, temporarily, without interest, and the facilities thus afforded have greatly contributed to the success and rapidity with which the building has been erected.[125]

In addition to these funds, Hill paid an annual subscription of 5 guineas and contributes towards a Stained Glass Window on the Staircase and Entrance Hall – estimated cost, £150. In 1881, Hill even contributed a further £50 to a special appeal to raise funds for the reduction of the mortgage that he provided.[126] It is clear from these accounts and others that Hill was a driving force behind the establishment of the Brighton School of Science and Art. The account report for 1882, where Hill is not listed on the committee, is testament to the esteem in which he was held:

The Committee have to record with deep regret the loss of their great friend, Captain H. Hill, to whose liberality the School has been so much indebted. Their sense of this heavy loss was expressed in the following resolution, which I quote from their minute book:-

“It was resolved that this meeting wishes to express its regret at the death of the late Captain H. Hill, and, recognising the fact that without his assistance the completion of the School of Art would have been long delayed, desires to place on record its deep sense of obligation for the great liberality which always characterised his actions in relation to this institution.” [127]

The Brighton Art Gallery

Maas records that Holman Hunt’s painting, The Light of the World, went to Brighton in 1863 as part of its tour around Britain.[128] Brighton hosted touring art exhibitions before 1872, but did not have a public gallery space. The committees for a free public library and gallery in Brighton were established in the early 1870’s with the first sub-committee recorded in 1872.

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Fig.9:  Brighton Art Gallery Photograph © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Hill loaned pictures to the Brighton Loan Exhibition for the rest of his life. In 1875, these included works by Phil Morris, Frank Holl and Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Gold – Valparaiso (Exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877). There were four works by Whistler exhibited at the Brighton Loan Exhibition in this year, and Whistler himself attended the opening.[129] A review of this exhibition reflected that some ‘of the works are of very high merit though they appeal to the educated eye rather than to the indiscriminating applause of the general public. In one respect the Brighton Exhibition is superior even to the great exhibition of the Academy.’[130]Hill was involved with the Brighton Art Gallery from its inception. A report of the opening of the gallery describes the gallery itself. ‘The structure, however, is only the casket to the gem; and probably more will care for the worth of the enshrined jewels than for the outward setting […] It should be stated that it is chiefly a loan collection, the greater part of the works being lent by Mr. Webster of Blackheath and Brunswick Terrace, and Capt. Hill and Mr Willett.’[131]

In 1876, Hill lent works from his collection including paintings by Holl, Poole and Morris, but also by Vollon and Degas. The Degas pictures were Preliminary Steps and Figures in a Café, now known as L’Absinthe. The Brighton Guardian for this year recognised the contribution from Hill’s collection as being one of the exhibition’s ‘chief and most attractive features’. Of the more challenging pictures, the review continues: ‘These works scarcely come within the scope of criticism at our hands; they have already passed through a more severe ordeal at the hands of metropolitan critics. Of their high merit as works there can be no doubt. They will be admired, more or less, according to the tastes of those who examine them.’[132] The Brighton Examiner was less gracious writing that they were ‘two pictures of whose particular merits we have not been able to discover […] except their extreme ugliness and carelessness of execution.’[133]

The FASC minutes report on this same exhibition showed the sale of 110 out of the 638 pictures for sale realising £1204.4.3. It was open from Sept 7th 1876 and closed Feb 3rd 1877, the date of closing extended to include a royal visit. ‘The Exhibition was to have closed on Jan 28th but owing to the visit to Brighton of the Princess Louise […] to open the School of Science and Art on Feb 2nd it was left open until Feb 3rd. Her Royal Highness was very pleased with the collection of Pictures, many of which the criticized, and expressed her pleasure in finding the Town possessed so “Magnificent a Gallery”’[134] ‘The criticised’ must surely have been the French paintings on show, and this note within the minutes provides a defence of their inclusion by a Royal seal of approval. Princess Louise was a supporter of higher education and the arts, studied at the South Kensington School and was an able sculptor, so it seems fitting that she opened the Brighton School of Science and art.[135]  

The account records for the BSS&A show Henry Hill’s commitment and involvement with the institution. They also show his British friends in the art community contributing as Honorary Local Examiners to the School. They do not help in establishing a personal connection between Hill and his continental network of artist friends that would help to inform an understanding of his collection. For this, we turn to the committee minutes and exhibition catalogues for the Brighton Art Gallery. It is in this detail where Hill’s social agenda and personal connections become clear.

At the first meeting of the Fine Art Sub Committee in 1872 it was resolved that ‘Captain Hill be invited to become a member of this sub-committee.’[136] It was clear that Henry Hill was already known as a collector in the town. By the fourth meeting, Captain Hill is listed as present and examining possible loans to the galley on behalf of the committee.

Hill took a series of active steps to influence the art scene in Brighton. We see the promotion of artists and education continuing. Hill establishes education as a key role of the gallery. A minute from 1874 records the resolution that ‘the Rule respecting Copying days be suspended for the present, so that copying may be allowed daily, whilst Captain Hill’s pictures remain in the Gallery.’[137] He actively promotes artists by developing an Annual Exhibition of Artist’s pictures for sale, followed by an additional exhibition of watercolours for sale. Hill establishes an Art Union for Brighton and establishes that Brighton should be promoting not only British artists, but also foreign artists. His agenda is clear that Brighton should showcase ‘works of merit by living artists British and Foreign’.[138] From the very outset of his involvement with the FASC, the steps he takes as chairman are inclusive and progressive. In doing so, Hill embraces modernism, progress and socialist ideals. Along with the impact of the railway and ferry crossings to France, Hill helps, through his endeavours, to establish Brighton as part of continental Europe.

As mentioned, Hill’s business was international. It started out in the halls of Oxford and Cambridge, and then the families of these young scholars, but expanded to include French, Russian and American clients. Foreign business was so good that Hill Bros. opened a branch in Paris. Perhaps this is how Hill discovered Brighton as his place of choice to retire, making the journey from London to Paris on business, through Brighton and Dieppe. Maas references a guidebook of 1854 noting that ‘splendid steam packets leave […] two or three times a week from Brighton to Dieppe, and from Southampton to Havre’.[139]

As a cosmopolitan and international businessman, perhaps it was in Paris where Hill first got a taste for art of the continental schools, and where he met some artists. This could explain why he was so keen to encourage foreign artists whom he met during their exile in England from the Franco-Prussian War, to exhibit at Brighton. Hill was a patron of the arts in industrial England and his interest in art did not stop at the coast. As Maas observes, for the great manufacturers it was ‘a point of honour to buy pictures by living artists.’[140] For Hill, this included foreign artists.

In a report of the FASC presented in 1874 in which the committee communicate progress of the Sale Exhibition, they list 14 Artists as ‘Honorary Corresponding Members’ on its committee. Thirteen of these (J. Pettie, W. McTaggart, E. H. Stephens the sculptor, W.Q. Orchardson, H. Davis, J. MacWhirter, E. Galland, J. Israels, P. Morris, F. Holl, R. Beavis, H. Moore and F. Grace) are represented by at least one picture in Hill’s collection. Whether these were bought prior to this enterprise or after, it shows Hill using his network of artists and his influence through patronage. Hill was not concerned with the ‘knocking down and putting up’[141] of artists but of the putting up and establishment of artists of merit and in his care. It is notable that there is an emphasis on both British and ‘foreign’ artists from the start. The 1874 report that is signed by Hill continues: ‘it is most gratifying to say that 62 Artists, including […] many eminent foreign artists, have already responded, and are sending 102 pictures, many of these being their best works […].’[142]It continues to press the point home, ‘several artists write that they have for years been of the opinion that Brighton was a very favourable place for Fine Arts Exhibition. One foreign artist writes, ‘As I live in London some of my foreign artist friends have begged me to send their works to the best exhibition in England, and I think it will be to their interest to have their pictures sent to Brighton’.’[143]

Other details in the FASC minutes suggest Hill’s particular promotion of foreign artists. The marketing of the 1874 exhibition includes sending out circulars to buyers. These are to ‘be sent to R. F. Mac Nair Esq. Dudley Picture Gallery and 50 (through Captain Hill) to the Secretary of the French Gallery [and] Resolved: That an advertisement of the opening of the Gallery be inserted.’[144] The Secretary of the French Gallery at this time was Charles Deschamps. He became secretary to the Society of French Artists in 1872, a society that promoted the new French Impressionist School. As Maas describes ‘it was at the 1872 exhibition that the Impressionists were shown in greater profusion. There were no less than six paintings by Manet, two by Monet, four by Pissarro, as many by Sisley, two by Degas, and a multitude of works by Fantin-Latour, Courbet, Boudin, Jongkind and other moderns.’[145]

This FASC minute confirms a personal relationship between Hill and Deschamps by 1874. It is in this very year (perhaps as he handed over the circulars) that Hill bought his first Degas from Durand-Ruel’s Galley.[146] Hill and Deschamps continued their relationship over the next few years as Hill expanded his collection of pictures by Degas, and Deschamps became established as a dealer and as the Secretary of the Society of French Artists.[147]

The Forbes Collection

In 1875 the Brighton Gallery had the perfect opportunity to promote ‘Foreign Art’ as part of their loan exhibition programme. It is easy to see the excitement that this caused. On the 6th March 1875 ‘Mr Upperton reported that he had secured for the Picture Gallery a fine collection of pictures by modern French artists, the property of J.S. Forbes Esq. West Wickham, Kent, on loan for 6 months. The collection contains works by Israel, Daubigny, Rousseau, […], Jules Breton and others.’ The committee (including Hill) lost no time in taking up the offer resolving that ‘the Picture Gallery be prepared for the reception of the Forbes Collection immediately after the dispersal of the present collection of modern pictures. That a catalogue of the Forbes Collection be prepared and printed.’[148]

James Staats Forbes (1823 – 1904) was a railway administrator, a connoisseur and a major collector of art, in particular the Barbizon School, Dutch painting and a number of pictures by Whistler, including Blue and Silver: Trouville. At the time of his death in 1904, Forbes had a collection of over 4,000 pictures.[149] He is widely considered one of the most influential collectors of early impressionist work in the U.K.

It is not known whether Forbes and Hill knew of each other. It seems likely that this loan presented them with the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other. Although Hill’s collection was far smaller than Forbes’s, there are some similarities, including pictures by Daubigny, Corot and Millet.  

It is known that an exhibition was held in Brighton in 1908, of part of the Forbes collection after his death. It is interesting that this location was chosen, and suggests some connection between Forbes, his collection and Brighton.[150] The catalogue for the 1908 Forbes exhibition is available to view. This exhibition represents a tiny portion of the Forbes collection, which was sold in sections, because of fears that his collection was so large it would flood the market and reduce the sales prices for the estate. Part of the Staats Forbes collection went on display in Dublin in 1904, at the insistence of Hugh Lane, who was hoping that it would be bought for the Nation.[151] Brighton was a venue for one of these exhibitions, demonstrating how much Hill had done to put Brighton on the art market map in Britain, especially for ‘foreign’ art, although the exhibition did include the artwork of more local characters. The first painting listed in this exhibition is by James S Hill (1854 – ?), a painter and the nephew of Henry Hill. There are two of James Hill’s paintings in the exhibition; the first A Vase of Flowers (£25) and the second number 57 – Landscape (£15). Hill had one painting by his nephew in his collection that was sold at Christie’s, A Morass, Hampshire. It is a nice touch by the Forbes executors to include a local figure in the Brighton exhibition. It is interesting to see the mix of paintings exhibited here. The work of James Hill is hung alongside some works by familiar names from the Hill collection: Jules Breton, Corot, Crome, Diaz, L’Hermitte, Rousseau and Vollon along with many others. Hill had made these artists familiar in Brighton. Hill’s collection was both forward looking and international in form.[152]

The loan exhibition of some of the Forbes collection in 1875 would have shown some progressive French painters at the time – probably including work from the Barbizon School. This exhibition would have helped to establish Brighton as a venue for exhibition of art from the continent. It is likely that Hill was in contact with Forbes regarding his loan, and it is certain that he had the opportunity to study those pictures on display. Importantly, it also places two early collectors of Whistler and early impressionism together. Hill bought his Whistler in 1874/5. It was on display at the Grosvenor Gallery around that time. The evidence of such exhibitions, and of collectors knowing each other leads to an interesting question about who was influencing whose taste, and indeed, who knew each other at this time –  a known network of collectors.

In At the Temple of Art, Denney describes the late nineteenth century visitors to the Grosvenor Gallery. She imagines that after ‘they finished their morning correspondence or gave final orders to dressmakers or tailors on New Bond Street, they could enter the cool interior and quiet solitude of this temple of contemplation and suspend ordinary time’.[153] It is clear that the dressmakers and tailors on New Bond Street also followed their customers into the cool interior of the Grosvenor Gallery. In the first summer exhibition (in 1876) ‘On the side walls in between, in individual sections, were Whistler’s seven ‘”Nocturnes,” “Arrangements,” and “Harmonies” and Moore’s three figure panels. In addition, Strudwick’s Love Music, owned by the well-known collector, Captain Henry Hill, and Spencer Stanhope’s four contributions hung in this same room.’[154] Here we have three artists represented in the Hill collection hanging on a London Gallery wall: Moore, Strudwick and Whistler. Whether Hill bought his Nocturne from the Grosvenor Gallery or directly from the artist is unclear. Whistler brought an action against Ruskin for criticism of his work shown at the Grosvenor Galleries at this exhibition, and the subsequent loss of sales, which Whistler won in principle, if not financially.[155] As Maas describes ‘Whistler’s Nocturnes had won the day, although the public was slow to recognise it.’[156] Henry Hill was not so slow. Perhaps because he collected as an artist peer rather than the ‘public’. He already had one of these Nocturnes (Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso May 25th 1889, Lot 80, now at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC) in his collection. [157]

Here, then, are two further contacts for Hill’s network – James Staats Forbes and Whistler. Hill is buying from those he had a personal connection with, thus strengthening the argument of a personal connection to other artists represented in his collection. We know that Whistler visited Brighton: He records that ‘I was shown into the galleries, and of course took a chair and sat looking at my beautiful Nocturne then, as there was nothing else to do, I went to sleep.’[158] We also know that Whistler knew and associated with Ionides and Fantin-Latour, and that Hill bought several pictures by Fantin-Latour, so the case grows for a more expansive network of contacts for Hill than was previously thought.   

The FASC Exhibition catalogues provide further evidence of connections between Hill and the artists in his collection. Close inspection leads to conceiving that Hill had a personal connection with Jules Lessore (and by association his father, Émile,) and Marie Cazin, until now unestablished and the quantity of their work in Hill’s collection a mystery.

Both Jules Lessore (1849 – 1892) and Émile Lessore (1805 – 1876) are represented in Hill’s collection.[159] Jules had lived in England since 1871. He was living in West Sussex when his daughter Thérèse was born in 1884 and died in Rotherfield, Sussex, buried in Woking Cemetery, so there is a local connection in terms of geography. Jules Lessore exhibited at the Brighton Art Gallery whilst Hill was Chairman of the FASC. In the catalogue for the Spring Exhibition Modern Water-Colour Drawings 1879, Capt. Henry Hill is listed as Chairman. Beneath his name, as Honorary Corresponding Members, are new additions to the expanding Hill network, including Jules Lessore, Esq.[160] Six of Lessore’s pictures are listed for sale in the exhibition as well as three not for sale, two of which have titles and descriptions matching those of Lessore’s work in the Hill collection, Rouen (Cat. Reference 284) and Honfleur (Cat. Reference 292). This suggests that these were either previously from the Hill collection and lent by Hill for the exhibition, or that they were purchased by Hill ahead of the Exhibition catalogue being printed. It is possible, therefore, that he was using his position as part of the selecting committee to find new work for his collection before it went on display.[161] Either way, it shows that once again, Hill had a personal connection with an artist heavily represented in his collection and raises a question about who else might be connected to Hill in this way. One answer is Marie Cazin.

The presence of such a large number of works by Marie Cazin in the Hill collection was a mystery. Pickvance describes this part of Hill’s collection as having ‘less discrimination’, but as it is now clear, Hill was a patron to artists that he knew and admired and not just a collector of their work. A painter and sculptor, Cazin was a student of Rosa Bonheur.[162] There are very few records of Cazin in England and nothing published which suggests Hill’s acquaintance, if any, with her. It is known that she was in England with her husband in the mid 1870’s during the Franco-Prussian war. She exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874[163] when her address was in Fulham and 1878[164] when she is listed living in Paris. Marie’s husband, Jean-Charles Cazin (1840 – 1901), was a painter and decorative artist. He was known to be influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and worked in the potteries for a time (as did Émile Lessore). They were also in Sussex at one time, perhaps forming part of a small French community during the Franco-Prussian War.

Marie Cazin is in the list of the Exhibitors in the Sixth Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil, opened September 1879, as Madame M. Cazin.[165]  J. M. Cazin, Esq. also appears in the catalogue. He is in the list of Honorary Corresponding Members to the FASC for that year. From this, it is clear that Hill and the Cazins knew each other. This information starts to paint a picture about Hill, his connections, and his influences. It also helps to fill in details about artists from the Continent living and working in England. It shows how their presence and engagement in English communities during the Franco-Prussian war helped to shape English taste and influence English artists.

Hill had many oil paintings and drawings by Marie Cazin. One of these, now known as The Harbour Lights is now held in the Museums Sheffield collection.[166] Meynell describes these pictures as quite a collection of Mme. Cazin’s landscapes. Reviewing them she writes that Cazin’s ‘chief merits are great harmony and unity of colour and effect; her chief faults a lack of light, especially in the skies, which are heavy in tone, and a peculiarity of surface suggestive, in the extremist examples, of blotting paper – a general opaque softness which is very unattractive. When, as is the case notably in one little picture here, she compasses any freshness or luminosity, her manner is very charming and very true.’[167] It is possible that Hill bought a collection of Cazin’s paintings and drawings en bloc, when the Cazins left England and returned to France before 1878. This would explain a collection of work that is extensive even by Hills standards of patronage, and that includes a large number of sketches. There may be a similar story behind the large number of watercolours by both Emil and Jules Lessore.

Although conjectural, this starts to make sense of the collection.

Hill knew Jean-Charles and Marie Cazin. Sutton writes that Hill ‘entertained a special affection for the work of Madame Cazin, who, like her painter-husband, spent some time in Sussex: he owned no fewer than eighty oils and a dozen watercolours by her’.[168] According to Sutton, the Cazins were the mutual friends of Hill and Degas. They had connections from Paris and Dieppe with artists who are also featured in Hill’s collection. There is another, continental, network of artist friends in Hill’s circle. Treuherz, in appraising Hill’s collection, suggests he saw links between realism in France and England which ‘no-one else could appreciate’ – that is to say, the collectors. [169] The artists themselves, as Treuherz and others argue, were engaged in an exchange of ideas, and Hill was taking their advice for his collection.

Footnotes for Chapter 3:

[79] Technical information about the history of 53 Marine Parade and the gallery dome has been gathered from an architectural report written by Davis Pursey Feb 1999, available at the Brighton gallery Archives within the file relating to the Frank Holl Portrait of Henry Hill (1880) – Acc. FA000603. It is likely that the architect Charles Augustus Busby of London built number 53 around 1813 and that it was let as furnished lodgings until about 1862.

[80] Brighton Herald 8 April 1882.

[81] Anon. Obituary of Henry Hill The Argus 12th April 1882.

[82] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure House The Magazine of Art Vol. V, (London, Paris and New York: Cassel, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1882). p. 74. [Transcribed https://henryhill.net/publications/the-magazine-of-art/ ].

[83] I am grateful to Liz Wardle, a previous owner of 53 marine Parade who, in the course of renovating ‘the Dome’ (one of the original picture Galleries) carried out some unpublished research into Henry Hill, a copy of which is now in the Royal Pavilion Archives. I am grateful to her for information regarding 53, Marine parade.

[84] An extract from the technical summary is transcribed in the Appendix.

[85] Ada Mabel Reynolds, The Life and Work of Frank Holl (London: Methuen, 1912), p. 124. Reynolds was Holl’s daughter.

[86] The Argus 12th April 1882.

[87] The Argus 12th April 1882.

[88] FASC Exhibition catalogue 1881 [Brighton Pavilion and Museum Archive records].

[89] Report of the Funeral of the late Mr. Henry Hill The Western Times (Exeter, England) Thursday April 13 1882; p. 3; Issue 9973.

[90] A.M. Reynolds notes that Hill was well known to dealers and in galleries.

[91] Maas, Gambart, p. 230.

[92]Jonathan M. Woodham  http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/arts/alumni-and-associates/the-history-of-arts-education-in-brighton/brighton-school-of-art—the-victorian-age-to-the-twentieth-century  (DJ3) (DJ1) [accessed 6th July 2018].

[93] From Reynold’s description, it is easy to recognise the man in Holl’s portrait of Hill painted six years later in 1880. This portrait was not sold at the Christie’s auction and Hill’s family gave it to Brighton Museum and Art Gallery some time later.

[94] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 124.

[95] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 124.

[96] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 81.

[97] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 123.

[98] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 79. Reynolds lists occasions where Hill began to commission work from Holl, as did the dealer Arthur Tooth. This dealer seems to have been a friend of the Holl family and their circle. Reynolds refers in her biography of Holl, to Arthur Tooth and his sons being invited to children’s parties for the Holl family.  

[99] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 96.

[100]  A canvas of The Railway Station (42×28) was sold to Hill for 220 Guineas and exhibited at the Royal Academy a year later (Reynolds, Holl p. 105). In 1874, Holl painted a picture of Deserted – a Foundling that he sold to Hill for 800 Guineas (Reynolds, Frank Holl p.123).

[101] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 107.

[102] Richard Thomson, Modernity, Figure, Metropolis: Importing the New Painting to Britain in the 1870’s in Gruetzner Robins and Thomson Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec, p. 25

[103] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure-House, p. 3.

[104] Julian Treuhertz, Hard Times, p. 12.

[105] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 107 describing the ‘hunting ground’ for subject matter in 1873.

[106] Treuhertz, Hard Times: Social Realism in Victorian Art (London: Lund Humphries, 1987), p. 12.

[107] The Brighton Guardian 15th April 1882.

[108] Reynolds records that the original painting ‘was sold before it went in to a Mr Herman, M.P., for a thousand guineas, the highest price my father ever obtained for a subject-picture’. Later in the year ‘A replica of “Newgate,” a canvas 38 x 28, commissioned by Captain Hill, was painted in August’ Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 146 and 155. According to Agnew’s stock books, Frank Holl’s Newgate was sold to Quilter. Possibly the art critic Harry Quilter (1851 – 1907) who wrote a memoriam for Holl (Universal Review, August 1888, pp. 478 – 93). Both Ruskin and Whistler apparently loathed him.

[109] According to Reynolds, A replica of Going Home was also painted for F. Teesdale of Kennington and one of The Lord Gave for Mr J. W. Adamson of Blackheath. Reynolds, Frank Holl, pp. 146 and 143.

[110] Maas, Victorian Painters, p. 213.

[111] Maas, Victorian Painters, p. 223.

[112] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 123. She lists these as having a ‘warm friendship’ starting in 1870

[113] Holl certainly went to parties hosted by his brother-in-law, and Henry Hill’s brother, Edward Hill. Holl’s daughter recalls ‘quartet parties at the house of my uncle by marriage, Edward Hill, in Upper Hamilton Terrace, where Hollman was always the ‘cello […]’ Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 162. Reynolds also recalls in 1881 spending the Christmas holidays with her favourite aunt and godmother, Mrs. Edward Hill.

[114] Reynolds, Frank Holl, p. 132.

[115] Reynolds, Frank Holl, pp. 140 – 141.

[116] Orchardson, (Hamlet and the King Feb 20th 1892, Lot 267); Pettie (Jacobites 1745 May 25th 1889, lot 104 and Scene in Hal O’the Wyns Smithy Feb 20th 1892, Lot 270); McTaggart, (The Bathers, Feb 20th 1892, lot 238).The Scottish set are described and listed in Maas, Victorian Painters, p. 244

[117] John Burr paintings: The Careless Nurse 1877 (25th May 1889, Lot 51) and The Toiler of the Sea 1871 (Feb20th 1892, Lot 143).

[118] The Brighton Guardian 15th April 1882.

[119] History of the Brighton School of Art: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/arts/alumni-and-associates/the-history-of-arts-education-in-brighton/brighton-school-of-art—the-victorian-age-to-the-twentieth-century [accessed 6th July 2018].

[120] Henry Cole (1808 – 1882) Director of the South Kensington Museum and organizer of the Great Exhibition of 1851 died at the same time as Henry Hill. A civil servant, knighted in 1875 by Queen Victoria, Cole would have been a well-known figure in Victorian London.

[121] The Illustrated London News, Feb 10, 1877, p. 133.

[122] Report of the Brighton School of Art and Science, In connection with the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, for the year ending July 31st 1875, p. 5.

[123] At this point, Captain Hill was not listed as an Annual Subscriber to the School, but £100 is listed against his name for ‘Sums already promised’ for the Fund for the Erection of a School of Art and Science for Brighton, Hove and the Vicinity.

[124] Report of the Brighton School of Science & Art, for the year ending July 31st, 1877 that also reports “the opening of a series of Classes in Physical Science, and, during the last Session, lessons in the Science of Music have been given.”

[125] Brighton School of Science & Art, The report of the Building Committee, Presented and Approved at a General Meeting of the Subscribers and Donors, held at the School, 3rd October, 1877.

[126] The report states: “The special appeal so made has resulted in raising a fund of rather more than £1000 in Donations and Subscriptions promised, of which £986 8s. 7d. has been received, and £750 has already been repaid to Captain Hill, in reduction of the debt. A further sum of £250 will shortly be paid to that gentleman, who has kindly expressed his willingness to receive repayment in such instalments as may suit the Committee. […]”Report of the Brighton School of Science & Art, for Year ending July 31st, 1881.

[127] Report of the Brighton School of Science & Art, for Year ending July 31st, 1881.

[128] Gambart ‘records yet another case [of copyright infringement] against a Mr and Mrs White of Brighton’. Gambart had entrusted Mr. Ryde, a respectable print seller in Western Road, with the recent exhibition of ‘The Light of the World’ in 1863. Maas, Gambart p. 162.

[129] Brighton Guardian 22 January 1873. 

[130] University of Glasgow Correspondence of J.M. Whistler Acc.11866 https://whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/correspondence/exhibit/display/?rs=3&exhibid=Brig-1875&sort=2 [accessed online 3rd September 2018].

[131] Brighton Gazette 9th September 1875, ‘Loan Exhibition’, Brighton History Centre acc. BH200079.

[132] Brighton Guardian 1876 – Review of the Loan exhibition of 1876, Brighton History Centre acc. BH200261.

[133] The Brighton Examiner 3rd October 1876, Brighton History Centre, acc. BH200344.1. A year after L’Absinthe sold at Christie’s as part of the Hill sale in 1892 it went on display at the Grafton Gallery. The exhibition at the Grafton gallery opened in 1893. Pickvance (Apollo Magazine May 1963) records L’Absinthe ‘set alight the columns of the English press for more than a month’. Then Director of the Tate, D.S. McCall said that it was an ‘inexhaustible picture, the one that draws you back again and again’ (Spectator February 25th, 1893).

[134] Report of the Picture Gallery Sub Committee March 3rd 1877 in Royal Pavilion Fine Arts Sub-Committee Minute Book (1872-1878), Acc. RG001174, p. 123. 

[135] She also supported the feminist cause. Hill was also supportive of the education of women.

[136] FASC Minutes 23rd September 1872, Royal Pavilion Fine Arts Sub-Committee Minute Book (1872-1878). Acc. RG001174, p. 8. Moved by Mr Alderman Abbey seconded by Mr Penley. The FASC minutes are held by Brighton and Hove Museums. I am grateful to them for their help in accessing these documents.

[137] FASC Minutes, 1874, p. 45.

[138] FASC Minutes, 1874, p. 43.

[139] Maas, Victorian Painters, p. 88.

[140] Maas, Gambart, p. 17.

[141] Haskell on Ruskin in Rediscoveries in Art: Some aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France, (Oxford: Phaidon, 1980), p. 21.

[142] FASC Report presented At the Meeting Held November 13th, 1874. Brighton Art Gallery Archive.

[143] FASC Report presented At the Meeting Held November 13th, 1874. Brighton Art Gallery Archive.

[144] FASC Minutes, December 1874, p. 54.

[145] Maas, Gambart p. 223.

[146] Sylvie Patry (ed.) Inventing Impressionism, p. 182.

[147] Deschamps became a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1878 for his services to the International Exhibition Maas, Gambart p. 260.

[148] FASC Minutes March 1875 p. 60. It is unfortunate that the Brighton Art Gallery Archives of exhibition catalogues do not start until after this exhibition, so it is not possible to see the extent of the exhibition.

[149] James Staats Forbes, 1823 – 1904. University of Glasgow: The correspondence of James McNeill Whistler [accessed online May 2018]

[150] Brighton Public Art Galleries: Exhibition Catalogues. 1901-1912, (1901). National Art Library Historic Catalogues, 77.B, [accessed 19th July 2018].

[151] O’Byrne, Hugh Lane, p. 62.

[152] The Spring Exhibition held in Brighton in 1908 was collected and arranged by Mr W. Marchant of the Goupil Gallery. This demonstrates the strong links cemented with both the London market and the continued commitment to modern artists ‘both English and foreign’ Public Art Galleries, Brighton, Catalogue of the Spring Exhibition 1908, in Exhibition Catalogues 1901 – 12 [NAL].

[153]Colleen Denney, At the temple of Art: The Grosvenor Galley 1877 – 1890 (U.S.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2000) p. 9.

[154] Denney, At the temple of Art, p. 70.

[155] Whistler was awarded one farthing in damages and bankrupted himself.

[156] Maas, Victorian painters, p. 246.

[157] In addition, Hill also had three drawings by Whistler in his collection.

[158] Related by S Starr in ‘Personal Recollections of Whistler’, Atlantic Monthly, vol.101, January-June 1908, p. 530.

[159] https://www.islington.gov.uk///~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/leisureandculture/information/factsheets/20112012/20120303lhcexhibsickert [accessed 23rd June 2018]. Sickert was etching assistant to Whistler until 1883, the year after Hill’s death, when he met Degas. Sickert’s third wife was Thérèse Lessore (1884 – 1945), daughter of Jules Lessore.

[160] Exhibition catalogue for the 1879 Spring Exhibition Modern Water-Colour Drawings, by living artists.

[161] Obach (working for Goupil at the time) bought five works by Jules Lessore in the Christie’s sale, including Honfleur as well as works by Cazin, Emile Lessore, Jules Dalou, Fantin-Latour and Vollon.

[162] http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/marie-cazin-875

[163] Exhibit number 1337 A Market Garden in London (Address listed Holly Lodge Fulham) https://chronicle250.com

[164] By this date, Cazin was listed as living at 81 Boulevard Picpus, Paris. Exhibit number 202 An Old Farmhouse https://chronicle250.com [accessed 21st August 2018].

[165] Exhibition catalogue for the Sixth Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil. Opened September, 1879.  No. 503 The River Seine in Paris Madame M. Cazin for £.18 s.0 d.0.

[166] The Harbour Lights came from the Hill collection. The exact sale reference for this picture has yet to be established. It was then in Christie’s sale, 1 Dec 1933 (lot 105), Sold by Lockett Thomson (23FT), bought by J.G. Graves for £2 2sh (2gns), Graves Gift 1937, and is now held by the Graves Gallery, Sheffield. I am grateful to Liz Waring, Curator of Visual Art, Museums Sheffield, for confirming this detail through a personal email 21st September 2018.

[167] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure-House, p. 7.

[168] Denys Sutton, Edgar Degas, Life and Work Rizzoli, New York 1986, p. 29.

[169] Treuherz, Hard Times, p. 11.